FrameMaker final speech

(I ran across a speech I gave in July 2003, at the disbanding of a product team I worked on for several years, and like it enough I’m reposting it.)

All is flux, nothing stays still.
Nothing endures but change.
Heraclitus, from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

Big software applications are like living creatures- they have lives, personalities, a dark side. They have surprises. They can delight you and disappoint you. Many of them have a temper, though it’s usually not personal. Few people ever get to know them completely.

Big applications, like FrameMaker, especially FrameMaker, really only live and exist when they’re being used, when there’s a person sitting in front of a keyboard with things to say, a job to do, meaning or information to get across. The application’s personality, what they are and how they feel, is influenced not just by the menus and dialogs on screen, but by how they’re presented, how they’re sold, the language people use to talk about them, the pictures on their boxes. We tend to focus on the application itself, what it DOES, but it’s really many, many different pieces and actions coming together for that person in front of the keyboard.

And, you know, big apps don’t have owners, they have caretakers, people that try to understand them, change them, surround them with meaning. Most big tools have a lot of caretakers during their lives. FrameMaker is no different.

All of you here this afternoon have been a caretaker of some part of FrameMaker, building the product, describing what it does (or should do), telling people why they should get to know it, how they’ll be better off. All of you have had a hand in defining the creature that is FrameMaker, and one of things I want to do this afternoon is express my appreciation for the great magic you’ve done in giving it a life, a public face, an existence for all of its users.

A second thing I’d like to do this afternoon is to note the ending of the group that came together to make FrameMaker what it is, in particular the core engineering team. Corporations like to ignore or avoid acknowledging this, but what we do, the time we spend at work, and the people we do it with is a large part of who we are. We’ve developed into a kick-ass team over the last two years, wonderful people with the capability of working together to do amazing things, and I for one am sad to see it go. I believe that bringing skilled people together, creating tools that will be used by hundreds of thousands to millions of people and making their lives different, is one of the coolest things in the world that one can do.

Now, as you all know, this is a bon voyage party for FrameMaker, a sendoff, as it (rather literally) crosses the oceans and continents to a new home and new set of caretakers half a world away. We’ve been working hard over the last three weeks to make sure it has all it’s things packed, all its bits and pieces wrapped up and sent off, and a proper list of instructions and introductions in place. The new team has been right on top of things, and I’m very confident they’ll have every success in creating new magic for FrameMaker, adding their own bits of personality and life to the creature that is FrameMaker.

So, at this time, I’d like to raise our glasses in honor of the the product and the people that have made it, and salute it and wish good fortune and great happiness for both it and all of us as we move forward into the next voyage and next set of adventures.

As an ending, I was going to come up with some meaningful quote, ranging from Heraclitus to Andy Warhol. But yesterday, I received the following email from Victoria Thomas, a former Frame Technology employee who’s now Senior Director of Information Engineering at Blue Martini Software. She asked me to either read or post the following:

FrameMaker is a great product – really one of a kind. It makes work a pleasure and since I’ve been authoring the book in FrameMaker (which alas, I no longer use in my daily work, although my group does) I’ve reconnected with it. FrameMaker seems to read my mind as I work and you couldn’t ask for anything more. THANK YOU for your dedication to the task of developing and maintaining FrameMaker and for making us all look good on a daily basis!

Thank you, Victoria, and thanks to you all.

2008 Year-End Wrap-Up

A fairly usual year of activity for me- less traveling, more stuff locally. My last holiday letter came out in early March, so this covers from there forward.

Family trust: finished liquidating the rest of my mom’s properties and closed out the trust business. Yay! Have a closing tax return and K-1s to distribute, but there wasn’t much activity in 2008, so it should be straightforward. I’m Really Glad it’s done.

Real estate: I bought my mom’s house from the trust, hired contractors to do the major overhauls. Spent the 2nd half of 2008 doing hands-on reconstruction work, which will last into the first half of 2009. It’s fun and satisfying to swing a hammer and push a paint brush, seeing direct results from my actions (as opposed to managing 50 people two levels away). On the other hand, I’d have been happy with a couple months of that, not the year it’s going to take.

Fungus Fighters Construction removing old floor heater

Fungus Fighters Construction removing old floor heater

Relationships: started dating Dorit, and, by extension, her 7-yr-old son Gil. It’s been fascinating learning about 7-yr-old views of the world and modern family dynamics. It’s also startling how world-wise he is in some ways, and completely naive in others. I’m also recognizing some adult behavior as carried over from when the people were his age…
Dorit & Gil at his 7th birthday party

Dorit & Gil at his 7th birthday party

Music: finished a second certificate program at Berklee, a 9-unit electric bass series. Spent the rest of the year doing the other half of the classwork that didn’t fit the first time through. Reworked my 5-string Fender Jazz, am starting to look for people to play with. Also found the Jazzschool in Berkeley, which might be a good next step on the path to adding academic heft to my music doings.

Biking: bought a new road bike (Bianchi) in April, joined a couple bike clubs, and successfully completed the Chico Wildflower and Wine Country centuries (100 miles each). Don’t know that I’d do the Wildflower again… as much as I like Chico, parts of the Wildflower are tedious, especially the 20mi return through never-ending orchards. The Wine Country c. was excellent, though, scenic and varied. Only rode about half the 4000 miles I’d targeted for this year, but that’s better than 2007.

2009 is undefined. It will take another 4-6 months to finish the building rehab and find tenants, though sooner would be better. I’ll do something with music, still working out what that will be. Am considering returning to the salaried working world- steady paychecks are looking kinda luxurious in these economic times. Will do at least another couple century rides, am resisting the enthusiasm of the Grizzly Peak Cyclists list for double-centuries. 200-mile rides are unnatural.

Have a great New Year!

Have a great New Year!

Live To Rock up and playin’

closeup of Fender J-Bass pao ferro neck
There’s a new track posted- Live To Rock, from the early Urban Fiction work with Jenn last spring, remixed with a rewritten bass line. I went for a live club feel on this mix, not overdoing things based on what four people could do live on stage (though, really, it’s either five people or Jenn would have been singing and playing rhythm guitar at the same time). The energy and groove of the track is pretty cool, even with just four players.

This is the first piece using the reconstructed Fender 5-string jazz bass (on the left in the linked image), with a little crisper sound than the p-bass. Jenn’s vocals were recorded in my loft using an AT 4033a large-diaphragm cardioid mic, into Digital Performer at 24-bit. Didier played and recorded his lead guitar work separately and uploaded his audio; I later dropped it all into Logic Pro 8 for the rhythm section work, mixing, and mastering.

Credits: Vocals- Jenn Flaa. Lead guitar- Didier Bouvet. Bass, rhythm programming- Slate. Lyrics- Jenn. Music- Jenn & Slate. Arrangement & production- Slate.

If one hand claps in the forest…

Created a Twitter account today, partly because I’m thinking about doing Santarchy next Saturday and they’re planning to use Twitter to communicate on the day, partly because it’s survived long enough it might be worth a look. It’s like Yahoo Groups for TXTers – one person has 2100 people he was following and 2200 following him, another woman follows 5,644, has 7,253 following her. Wonder how many people actually correspond, versus the lurkers?

Even so, 7,000 reading your tweets is non-trivial, even if one is a “Bio Social Web Strategist.”

It’s kinda fun to post snippets re whatever I’m thinking / doing / experiencing at the moment. My approach would change, though, if I had a couple thousand people paying attention. Heck, my approach changed with ONE person paying attention.

Cheap on-line drugs

I don’t have much need for pharmaceuticals (unlike, apparently, a large percentage of the population). I need a prescription maybe every couple years or so for a sinus or skin infection, do the Walgreens thing, and am done.

But I got a prescription a couple days ago for (let’s say) VitaminX that I need to pay for myself. And it ain’t cheap- $135 at drugstore.com. Yikes. So, says I, Canadian pharmacies are the way to go for these pricey prescriptions, right? OK, so which one?

Turns out that’s a hard question to answer.

Google is both your friend and your enemy in figuring things out. Searching on “best Canadian pharmacy” brings up a plethora of links, most of which are bogus. MyCanadianPhamacy.com turns out to be a front organization linked to dozens of spammish domains, except that trying to get info leads you into spammish “help” pages that increase one’s suspicion at least as much as they inform. Other sources explain how formal approvals are faked, legitimacy is faked, sponsorship is faked…

So what about the FDA? No help whatsoever. The FDA has a stated policy that any re-importation of prescription drugs into the US by anyone other than the original manufacturer is illegal. Even if you blame them as supporting high drug prices by US-based manufacturers, it’s hard to argue much given the some of the sleazy sources on the web.

So… let’s find some certifying organization with a list of approved online pharmacies. Blech. Search around and you end up with obscure legislative and bureaucratic pages that lead nowhere. Other links lead to real, formal organizations with no relevance (Safeway Canada won’t ship a prescription to me in California).

The only relevant sources seem to be various state government organizations with links, like Minnesota, Washington, and Nevada. OK, it’s information with some legitimacy, but WTF? Nevada ignores the fact that brand-name versions of drugs like VitaminX cost MORE ($186 shipped) than through, say, drugstore.com. The cheapness comes from generic substitution, which isn’t legal yet for VitaminX.

What a PITA… this has turned into the hardest shopping task yet. Harder than computers, more convoluted than kitchen remodeling. There’s more, but I can’t reconstruct the real search path I spent hours working through.

So my current thinking… I can get prices at least as good, and maybe better, on brand-name VitaminX at my local Walgreens versus anything on-line, with the benefit of walking in with a prescription form and walking out 20min later with drugs. Am going to check Costco and Walmart, too. Still, for me in this case, local is better.

Overall, though… what a frigging zoo.

Antibiotics and Tendon Damage

A sorta weird one: I took five days of ciprofloxacin earlier this year for a killer sinus infection. It worked, but I noticed that my left Achilles tendon developed a new, unusually sharp pain when I stretched or pushed hard on the bike. I backed off on stressing it (probably avoiding serious damage), then googled on ciprofloxacin. Found out it, and the other related fluoroquinolone antibiotics have history re tendon damage.

Now it’s to the point where ABC News has done a story on it. There are a lot of other links if you Google on “antibiotic tendon”.

My Achilles seems OK now, but it took maybe three months of being careful before the soreness went away.

Updated Creative Commons license

More admin- have updated to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. No real impact; the terms remain the same as the 2.0 license in use previously. The reference page changes to the new WordPress format, and there are new links. There’s a link over on the right if you’re interested.

System upgrade

Just finished updating the site to WordPress 2.5, required because Laughing Squid updated to PHP 5.2. The older WordPress seemed to be running fine, but what the heck. It was a good chance to remember how the whole thing is put together, though I think I’ve now spent more time maintaining the blog infrastructure this year than actually writing blog entries.

The iTunes sidebar — the list of recently-played tunes on my desktop machine — is gone. I liked it, but the local AppleScript was a nuisance, and it was going to take work to re-implement in the new system.

2007 Year-End Wrap-Up

Hi. Another year, another essay. For the attention-span-challenged (we know who we are)-

  • A good year. Lotsa stuff happening. As usual…
  • Health good, no big changes
  • Started a band, wrote/recorded a cool song, took a performance class, did a couple shows. Played bass, sang. Ended the band (creative differences). Taking Berklee electric bass classes.
  • Spent a lot of time in San Diego with Patricia. Interesting place.
  • First full year as a landlord. In a separate process, learned how to do an eviction.
  • 1st place in my Porsche autocross class
  • 2000 bike miles, up from 900 in 2006

Urban Fiction

Jen recording Live To Rock vocals I ended 2006 putting a band together with Jen Flaa, based on her business plan for a functioning, profitable music group. We wrote a song together in January, using her vocals and chorus melody, me contributing a verse melody, arrangement, and rhythm section. I recorded her vocals in my loft, which sounded surprisingly good. We joined her friend Didier Bouvet (guitar) in a performance master class at Blue Bear in SF, learning acting techniques to communicate stories as a group on stage. You’d be surprised how much narrative depth is available in songs like Mother Mother and Harder to Breathe. Also pretty fun. I wrote and produced the backing rhythm tracks that we played/sang to, using Berklee skills from the previous year.

However… as Jen and I worked together, we ran into differences of opinion around musical styles, among other things- she wants to do metal and harder rock, I’m really more of a funk / groove / pop guy, so we went our separate ways. Given that it was really her band, she kept the name and domain; I ended up with shared custody of the one song we wrote (Live To Rock). We ended things with a couple performances — Jen, Didier, me — with a gig at a Blue Bear showcase at the Red Devil Lounge in SF. I also got solo stage time, singing my song Creekside over an instrumental backing track.

Late in the year, I started a second round of Berklee classes, signing up for their 3-class Bass Certificate program. Hard, but useful. It’s been a great way to take bass lessons and get broad exposure to electric bass repertoire.

San Diego

Lee & Patricia at Vistage Holiday Party My calendar shows that Patricia and I spent 101 days together in 2007; not bad for a relationship with someone 500 miles away. I accumulated three sets of Southwest free travel vouchers, am on their A List, and have more free drink coupons than my liver will tolerate. She also spent a fair amount of time in SF, giving her a chance to keep in touch with her friends here. Two of our big activities were family related- her neice’s wedding in Colorado, and a Christmas trip to my sister Kathy’s place in Dallas. We also spent a week in the desert at Burning Man, my second time, her third, a weekend at Disneyland for her birthday, and did a hot-air balloon ride in San Diego for mine.

However (that word again)… long-distance relationships are costly, somewhat in cash, more in time and energy. She wasn’t getting many opportunities to engage with her new community in San Diego, and I seemed to be spending all my time flying or recovering from flying. They’re also long-distance, meaning the other person is really Not Around, in a more-intense way than just being across town. Given her career in San Diego, and my rootedness in SF and the Bay Area, we decided to end things in late January. I’m not particularly happy about the outcome, but we kinda ran out of other options.

Business

2007 was my first full year as a landlord, after purchasing a family rental from my mother’s estate. I know landlording doesn’t have a great rep, but I find it kinda gratifying, more so even than when Betty-my-ex and I owned a house together in Campbell. I think it’s an opportunity to connect with my early family experiences of rental management- the maintenance issues, financial aspects pro and con, providing living space to people, and a feeling of being connected with the community.

A sample of Kay's plate collection I also made progress on closing out my mother’s estate (one of her decorative plates shown), getting down to a single property left to liquidate by the end of the year. I had an unexpected learning experience over the summer- my brother had invited a couple friends of his to live in our mother’s house while I was prepping it for sale, so it wouldn’t be unoccupied for several months. When it came time for them to leave, they decided they really liked living there, and declined to go. Did you know that the Solano County Court doesn’t accept eviction forms that aren’t stapled exactly right, and two-hole-punched at the top? So that stretched out the process by at least three months.

Driving & Biking

By focusing on autocross competition in 2007, I was able to build up enough points in GGR Autocross series to place first in the AX13 class, mostly stock early Boxsters and older 911s. Some of my win was just showing up a lot (isn’t there a rule about that?), but a couple of the weekends saw me doing some decent driving. The Boxster is a great car when you get into its rhythms and have it set up well. A next point up the competition ladder might be a top-10 finish in the overall handicapped standings, or moving into track competition, but both of those require more commitment- more money for setup and tires, more seat time, more weekends. Am still debating, might decide that I’m done with my bit of racing competition.

Have been increasing my bicycle time over the years, hitting 2000 miles in 2007, including SF to Palo Alto and Richmond to Vallejo. I’ve signed up for a couple of century (100 mile) rides in 2008, would like to see my overall mileage double again in 2008 to around 4000 miles. There’s a surprising number of interesting rides around the Bay Area, especially if you include Napa and the wine country.

Finally…

That’s about it. Lots of smaller things, a third “however…” I’ll tell you about if you’re interested, and a few pix up on Flickr.